The Teaching Theatre, which the university broke ground on two years ago, will not be wowing students and faculty when they return from summer break as originally planned.
Obstacles pushed the opening to October or November, said Mark Rozewski, Vice President for finance and administration.
“The opening of the theatre is going to be a little delayed because we’ve had some trouble getting the red sandstone that’s being used on the skin of the building,” Rozewski said.
The manufacturers of the red sandstone, which is coming from Brazil, Indiana, had some trouble matching the color requirements the university has for the project.
“It’s sort of a typical construction delay. It’s not entirely controllable,” Rozewski said.
The essential structure, however, is finished, he said. The building is fully enclosed and weather tight.
Rozewski said Aug. 12, that there was a shipment coming in.
“It’s unfortunate,” he said. “We had hoped to have a theatre season this fall, but it looks like that won’t be happening.”
Rozewski said that after the theatre is finished, the theatre department will have to learn how to operate it.
“A theatre is an unbelievably complicated thing to operate,” he said. “There’s literally millions of dollars of rigging and lighting controls and stuff that makes a theatre what it is, and they have to be trained to know how to use it.”
Rozewski said the theatre will be a stunning addition to campus once it’s done. He said the project will offer the community real life scale theatrical productions in the heart of campus.
Adrian Small, a senior theatre major, has performed in multiple shows at USI. She said when she’s on stage, it feels like home.
“I feel like a star. I like the spotlight,” Small said. “It’s just fun. It’s just my heart.”
Small said the new theatre will increase admissions to the theatre department and should bring larger audiences to the shows.
“A lot of students that were not even in the department were asking me if I was excited about the new theatre,” she said. “A lot of students want to come to our shows now and bring that life to the theatre.”
She said the process has been exciting and she is ready to see the new theatre.
“It’s been long,” Small said. “We are just ready to open it up.”
Elliot Wasserman, chair of the performing arts department, said the Teaching Theatre is not just for the department, but also for the community.
“We provide a cultural voice in the city,” Wasserman said. “It’s important for all of us, but obviously for our students. It’s a great learning opportunity.”
He said the project was considered for many years, but the funding was not easily distributed.
“For me, it’s an amazing change,” said Wasserman, who has been at USI for 23 years.
He said the theatre is “the flag to the flag post,” but there are many components to the project.
“It took us many years to get to this point,” Wasserman said. “A month here or a month there is immaterial.”
Another building is under construction next to support services and the physical plant for the construction of sets and the fabrication of costumes. It will be finished before the theatre is.
Wasserman said it’s a good thing the costume and scene shops will be available before the theatre is because it will make the first production easier to manage.
It could be one of the most beautiful theatres in the state for it’s architectural design, he said.
“When (people) go into the auditorium for the first time and sit down they will not have been, ever, in a theatre that looks quite like this one will look,” Wasserman said.
Shows will continue in the Mallette Theatre in the lower level of the Liberal Arts Center until the university opens the Teaching Theatre’s doors.
“Picnic” by William Inge will be the first show in the new theatre.
“It would be a rep show, which means we will have a couple of professional actors in the cast,” Wasserman said.
He said the sincerity and support of the university and the faculty has been remarkable.
Construction Administrator Gary Burgdorf said the interior carpets and seating will not be placed inside the theatre until construction is completely finished.
Burgdorf said they ran into stone when they first started excavating underneath the building, which also caused a delay.